Christmas in Kauai

Simple tunes from ukuleles play out in the colorful streets. Surfers ride glassy, green waves against a backdrop of stark mountains and green valleys. Visitors and locals alike catch rays on the sandy shores. Bright floral leis are donned by thousands, and hula dancers move to beating drums as the sun dips below the water.

Reserve your Kauai condo rentals now so you can spend December 25 on the beach. Christmas in Hawaii is magical – and significant to the island’s history.

The History of Christmas in Kauai and Hawaii

While Christmas was a European import to Hawaii, the spirit of the holiday season is native to indigenous Hawaiian culture through a celebration called Makahiki.

Makahiki is an ancient Hawaiian new year festival spanning four lunar cycles from about October or November to February or March. The holiday was dedicated to resting and feasting, and labor was strictly prohibited.

When the Europeans introduced Christmas, it fit easily into the existing ethos and energy of the natives’ seasonal celebration. King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma of Hawaii celebrated joint Thanksgiving together in 1856, an exhibit of their unification. Kamehameha declared Christmas an official holiday just six years later. In Hawaii, Christmas was welcomed, folded into existing local tradition.

Kauai’s Festival of Lights is another long-standing island tradition, though it doesn’t date back quite as far. The Festival of Lights is one of the best Kauai Christmas things to do – particularly for visitors. Christmas in Kauai is filled with excitement and energy – a feeling that stays with you long after you leave the island. Book a suite at Waipouli Beach Resort and Spa for a Christmas unlike any other.

christmas on kauai

The Festival of Lights

Around Christmas, Kauai’s Historic County Building in Lihue is strung with lights – red, green, and blue – which glow for the duration of the holiday season. The building is owned and operated by a local known as Auntie Josie, who began to decorate the building years ago with recycled material, glass decorations, flash cubes, beer cans, pine cones, and just about anything she could get her hands on.

Pretty soon, her neighbors began to join in the fun, lighting up their homes for the season. The area is now one of the top holiday destinations on the island. The event officially began in 1997, ushering in a new appreciation for local Hawaiian traditions and alternative celebrations.

Expect music, a visit from Santa Claus, goodie bags and treats, and more. The historic home itself is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in December from 6 to 8 p.m. The building’s address is 4396 Rice St., Lihue, HI, but be sure to visit the whole neighborhood (it’s free!).

Santa’s Visit

Kauai’s Festival of Lights is the quintessential example of Hawaiian Christmas – a little different from the mainland version. Santa Claus doesn’t arrive in a tradition sleigh, but rather paddles in on an outrigger canoe. He also likes to adopt a more Hawaiian-friendly image: an Aloha shirt and boardshorts.

kauai christmas events

The Grand Christmas Tree

When you think Hawaii, a rotund evergreen probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Though there are Norfolk pines on some islands, Hawaiians tend to use the typical island green – the palm tree – instead. Locals will often decorate their tall palms in bright lights, strings, and traditional Hawaiian ornaments.

Does it Ever Snow?

It doesn’t snow on Kauai, but if you’re really keen for a bit of Christmas Day snow, jump on board the island ferry, and head south to the Island of Hawaii. You’ll have to drive to the top of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s volcanoes if you want to see snow.

These dormant volcanoes are popular among brave snowboarders and skiers during the winter season. The peak of Mauna Kea is also one of the world’s most renowned astronomical observation sites.

With tons of Kauai Christmas things to do, you’ll be hard pressed to see it all in just one trip. Stay at one of our Kauai condo rentals for the season. The Waipouli Beach Resort and Spa is adorned in excited travelers and passionate explorers for Hawaii’s most iconic and humbling holiday.

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